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Monday, April 27, 2009

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I have wanted to go to the Los Angeles Festival of  Books for years. As a book lover, the fair seemed irresistible: more than 450 authors, 130,000 book fans, sunny Los Angeles, and books galore.

Well, I am happy to report that fair met my expectations. I started getting giddy Saturday morning as I left my hotel in downtown LA and punched in the address of the fair into my new GPS device. (I used one of these on my last trip and it was so helpful I decided to buy one.) It only took about 20 minutes to start winding my way through the tree-lined UCLA campus, but by the time I walked into the Greeen Room I was almost hyperventilating

I immediately ran into David Ulin, the book editor of the LA Times, and his gracious greeting set the tone for the festival. The organizers treated authors like rock stars, which we clearly aren’t, but it was nice to be fed well, escorted to our panels, and be given a free mug.

After my third cup of coffee for the day, I headed out into the festival. There are hundreds of white tents set up around the campus, each hosting a publisher, or bookstore, or book-related organization. I immediately stumbled upon the booth for PoliPoint Press and Peter Richardson, one of the press’ editors. They publish contemporary books on politics and economics. I bought a copy of Breadlines: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger by Sasha Abramsky, a journalist who writes frequently for The Nation. I ws delighted to hear that Peter’s long-anticipated book on Ramparts Magazine will be out in September.

My panel on History: Hidden Los Angeles was at 3:30 and the time flew by. Soon, I was back in the Green Room where I met my fellow panelists D.J. Waldie, Chip Jacobs, and Bill Deverell, the moderator.

Did I mention that my panel was broadcast live on national television by Book TV on CSPAN-2? I only discovered this a few days earlier and was so busy getting ready for my trip that I only sent out a few emails. I rushed into the very crowded ladies room to apply a little makeup so I wouldn’t looked washed out on television. Well, authors in general are not part of the glam set and I felt very self-conscious applying mascara and rouge in the mirror.

The panel was packed and I think it went well. The LA Times blog Jacket Copy has  a report on the panel.

I got a chance to hang out with Scott Martelle, the author of Blood Passion, a book on the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. I also stopped by the Angel City Press booth, where Kevin Roderick, the editor/writer for the LA Observed blog, was signing copies of his book on Wilshire Boulevard. Kevin's blog is fabulous (I read it every day even though  I live in the Bay Area) and it was interesting to see that people regard him as a rock star. I ran into Andrew Tonkovich, the editor of the Santa Monica Review, who said he wanted to introduce himself to Kevin. Tod Goldberg, another author at the festival, blogged about how excited he was to see Kevin.

Other highlights:

By far my best moment at the festival was meeting Larry Gillmore, the “senior black correspondent” for The Daily Show. I felt like a stalker as I approached him as he sat by himself on the patio of the faculty club, right off the Green Room. But he was gracious and inviting and true to form, made me laugh.

Other celebrity sightings:

Maureen McCormick, better known as Marsha Brady, sitting in the corner talking on her cell phone.  I noticed she had picked up the LATFOB mug given to each author.

Cloris Leachman hurrying out of the bathroom.

Bob Barker from the Price is Right.

Interestingly, I did not recognize many of the well-known authors at the festival. I did see the very tall Jane Smiley everywhere

But that is the point of the festival. It is a gathering of ideas, of great tales and great fantasies. Authors are the medium to deliver these goods. And since writing  book takes so much time spent alone in front of the computer, it is wonderful to occasionally have the opportunity to join readers and other authors and have fun.

1 comment:

Sheri said...

I caught your gig on Booknotes and thought you were fantastic, a great panel member choice and must say that you looked "Absolutely Mahvalous Dahling"

Sheri Fenley